Category Archives: Howard Days

Report on Howard Days 2017

I know I should have posted this almost two weeks ago, but I’ve been pretty swamped.  I’m teaching a class at the moment that’s taking up most of my time.  But since I don’t feel like grading exams on a Friday evening, I’ll blog instead.

This year’s theme was “Howard Detectives: The Ongoing Search for Undiscovered Information”.  Since there weren’t any anniversaries this year, things were a little low key compared to recent years.  That was fine with me. The attendance was down a little, which was disappointing.

I got in on Thursday afternoon.  Like I did two years ago, I stayed at the isolated farmhouse down the hill from the cemetery.  There weren’t any creepy things this time, but then I had a better idea of what to expect.  There also wasn’t a working air conditioner.  I slept with the windows open.  At first I thought about going to a hotel, but if Two-Gun Bob could sleep without AC all his life, I could do it for a few nights. Continue reading

Summer Schedule

I’ve been kinda busy lately, but I thought I would give a short update.

Last week my son competed in the state solo and ensemble competition.  He didn’t play a solo, but his quartet scored a one.  (For those who don’t know, band scores are like golf scores; lower is better.)  I went along as a sponsor, and since I rode the bus rather than drove myself, I got some reading done.

I’ll try to post reviews soon, but I’ve been devoting what free time I’ve had to fiction writing.  I’ve got three stories in slush piles.  With one exception, which got a very nice rejection of the send-me-something-else variety, all the other stories I sent out earlier this year have placed.  I need to get some more stuff finished and out the door.  I’m hoping things will settle down next week.

Why not this week, you ask.  Summer classes started today, so normally I would be into a routine by the end of the week.  However, this weekend is my annual pilgrimage to the holy land, also know as Robert E. Howard Days.  I’m going down on Thursday afternoon (and in my car since my wife needs hers this weekend.  It will be an adventure.)

So look for a writeup on Howard Days next week.  If I can squeeze in a review before then, I’ll do it.  Otherwise, they’ll hit after I get back.

Report on Howard Days 2016

Howard House 2016Yes, I know this year’s Howard Days was nearly 2 weeks ago, but we left for New Mexico on family vacation right after I got back.  (Other than no AC in the car when the temperature was 105F, we had a great time.)  I’m playing catch-up catch up on blogging.

Howard Days has grown, something that was emphasized since this year marked the 30th anniversary of the first Howard Days.  While things officially don’t start until Friday, people are showing up on Wednesday evenings.  Space is becoming a consideration, with events this year moved from the library to the high school auditorium or the Senior Center across the street from the library.  There were a number of new attendees, which is always a healthy thing for an event, and I’m not referring the 10,000 or so mosquitoes that showed up. Continue reading

An Open Letter to …?

This is going to be an open letter to two people, neither of whose identity is known to me.  I have a first name for one person (which I will not be revealing).  The other person’s identity I don’t know at all.  This is the person I would like to talk to.

I get most of my mail at a PO box for security reasons.  I want things with financial information safely locked away, not in a mail box on my porch.

Anyway, after lunch today I swung by the post office.  There were a couple of pieces of mail with computer generated addresses, such as an insurance statement, things like that.  On top of these envelopes was a letter-sized envelope with a hand-written address.  The handwriting was unfamiliar.  I glanced at the return address but didn’t look any closer than to see it was in town.   Through the envelope I could see and feel what appeared to be a card.

Wondering who it was from, I took a closer look at the return address.  There was no name, just a PO Box, city, and zip code.  My PO Box. Continue reading

Howard Days 2015 is Almost Upon Us

Robert E. Howard fenceIt’s Tuesday evening as I write this and in 48 hours, I’ll be in Cross Plains for Howard Days 2015, which officially kicks off on Friday.  I’ll provide a report next week.  In the meantime, I thought I would inquire as to what any of you any of you might like me to pay particular attention to.  The theme this year is the relationship between Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft.

Anyway, if you can’t make it and like me to report on something in particular, please let me know.

RIP, Miguel Martins

Al and Miguel

Al Harron (left) and Miguel Martins atop Caddo Peak, Howard Days 2011

I’ve begun to hear from people in Robert E. Howard fandom that Miguel Martins has passed away.  I don’t have any details at this time.

I only met Miguel once, at Howard Days in 2011.  I liked him immediately.  Miguel was one of the first people to follow this blog.  When I met him, he complemented me on it.  That meant a lot to me, as I had been blogging for less than a year, and at one point a few months prior I had considered shutting it down.

This was the year that the Conan movie was released.  Miguel asked for my thoughts after a presentation on the movie Saturday afternoon at Howard Days.  I was somewhat caught offguard and babbled something.  It couldn’t have been too incoherent because Miguel took a drag on his cigarette and gave a reply that showed he had listened and seriously considered what I’d said.  That also meant a lot to me because I wasn’t as involved in Howard fandom then as I am now.  Someone who was much more involved wanted to know what I thought, and listened carefully.

Saturday evening at Howard Days is the barbeque and hike up Caddo Peak for those willing to brave the heat, the snakes, the prickly pear, and the steep climb.  I climbed the peak with Al Harron and Miguel.  We had a great time, managed to avoid any snakes and the copious thorns on the prickly pears that covered the top of the peak.  They asked me to take a picture of them, which I did.  It’s the one at the top of this post.  It was one of the best years as far as company on the hike, and company in general, was concerned.

I didn’t hear from Miguel after that, and he drifted away from Howard fandom over the next few years.  Since he was from France, I wasn’t surprised that I never saw him at Howard Days again, although I always hoped he’d be back.  Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen.

Rest in peace, my friend.

Jeff Shanks has posted a tribute here.  Al Harron’s is here.  Barbara Barrett’s is here.  I’ll post other links as I become aware of them.

Howard Days 2013, Part 2

Today marks the 77th anniversary of Robert E. Howard’s passing.  I’ll be raising a glass later this evening in his memory.

Lansdale and Truman

After lunch, I swung by the post office and picked up some post cards with this year’s commemorative cancellation.  Then it was back to the library for the panels.  The first one featured GoH Tim Truman.  Joe Lansdale interviewed him.  Joe wasn’t on the original schedule but had driven over to see Tim.  They’ve worked together on a number of projects, including a Conan comic, The Songs of the Dead.  As is typical with old friends, their conversation flowed smoothly.  This panel was one of the highlights of the weekend.

I have to say that both of these guys were some of the most open and approachable pros I’ve ever met.  I’ve met Lansdale at a number of conventions, but this was my first time to meet Truman.  They never hesitated to sign something, pose for pictures, or just chat with fans.  They were both gentlemen.  The fact that they’re both fans of Howard helped, I’m sure, but that’s just how these guys are.  I hope they come back.

Rob and Bob Roehm

The next panel was Rob Roehm and his father Bob discussing how they got started traveling around doing research on the places Howard visited in his travels and identifying some of the places in the photos we have of Howard.  They showed the latest results of their research, identifying the bridge on which Howard and one of his friends are posing in a boxing stance.

Afterwards, I hung out at the Pavilion visiting with folks until it was time to go to the Banquet.  The Staghorn Cafe catered chicken fried steak, and it was excellent.  I put in some bids on a few items in the silent auction, winning most of them.  The speaker’s stand is in the photo to the left; the initials are old Conan comics.  There weren’t as many fans this year as in the past few years, but more people from Cross Plains attended.  This is a good thing because it means the community as a whole is getting more involved in continuing Howard’s legacy.

Tim Truman spoke how he discovered the works of Robert E. Howard and the impact that discovery has had on his life.  The REH Foundation Awards were given after dinner.  A complete list of the winners can be found here

Fists at the Ice House: (l. to r.) Gruber (foreground), Shanks, Finn

The last panel of the night was presented by Mark Finn, Chris Gruber, and Jeff Shanks.  “Fists at the Ice House” has been a popular panel for several years.  Started by Finn and Gruber, it takes place at what was once an ice house where Howard boxed in his early 20s.  Because the panel takes place outside, it was moved to an after dark event due to the relentless Texas sun and heat.  With the publication of the first volume of the collected boxing stories, Finn announced that this panel is going to be retired for a while.  I’ve never really gotten into boxing, but after listening to these guys discuss the role boxing played in REH’s life and read from his boxing stories, I’ve really come to appreciate that aspect of Howard’s work and personality.

Saturday was another great day (except for when I discovered the hard way the location of a yellow jacket nest outside the library).  The morning panel was Mark Finn interviewing Tim Truman and Joe Lansdale about working for Dark Horse comics.

Lunch

Lunch was the REH Foundation Legacy Circle luncheon.  The Tex-Mex was good (few people can make rellenos right), the company was great, and the perks were outstanding.  Although this year’s commemorative pin wasn’t ready, there were two newsletters.  The first was the regular newsletter.  The second was a special edition containing drafts of letters Howard wrote to HPL but never sent.  These letters are not included in A Means to Freedom and have not been published anywhere else.  Truly, membership does have its privileges.

After lunch Rusty Burke, Paul Herman, Joe Lansdale, and Mark Finn discussed Howard’s Texas.  The what’s up with REH panel back at the pavilion was pretty short.  No one from Paradox Entertainment, which owns the rights to Howard’s work, was in attendance this year, so there wasn’t any news about film deals.  The Foundation publishing schedule was announced, consisting mostly of boxing and westerns.

Jeff Shanks on Caddo Peak

Dinner that night was the traditional barbeque at Caddo Peak Ranch.  I hadn’t intended to climb the peak this year, but with the temperatures so low, I decided to make the trek.  At least this year there were no snakes. After dinner, picture taking, and watching the sunset, many of us returned to the Pavilion for poetry reading and general socializing.  I stayed until everything started to break up, then headed home.  Howard Days 2013 was over, and it was one of the best.

A special thanks is due to the members of Project Pride:  Arlene and Tom Stephenson , Era Lee Hanke, Diana Miller, Tom and Anne Rone, Larry and Nora Pointer, Betty Sue Adams, Don Clark, Janette Dugger, Kennith and Ann Beeler. Without those folks and their tireless work, Howard Days wouldn’t be what it is.

Photos continue below.

Watch out for the thorns.

The Guests of Honor pose with no one important.

Al Harron strikes a Howardian pose

Gruber and Finn discuss Howard’s works.
Sunset on the ranch

Howard Days, Here I Come

I’m leaving in a few minutes for Howard Days.  It doesn’t start officially until Friday, but there’s an informal get-together in Brownwood tonight.  Plus, Howard is buried in Brownwood, and I’ve never visited the grave site.  (Please don’t judge me.)

I’ll be commuting from my parents’ house in Breckenridge, which on the other side of Cross Plains.  (And one of the main reasons I’ve not visited Howard’s grave.)  I’ll give a full report when I get back.  I’ve been reading Ari Marmell’s In Thunder Forged, which came out Tuesday. I’d hoped to have the review up before I left, but obviously it didn’t happen.  I’ll try to finish the book on the trip and post the review when I get back.

Until then, I’ll check in once or twice a day, either early or late, but for the most part won’t be around much until next week.

Report on Howard Days 2011, Day Two

The second day of Howard Days was pretty laid back for me.  I arrived at the Pavilion about 9:00 or so.  One of the anniversaries being celebrated this year is the 50th year since Glenn Lord’s zine The Howard Collector first appeared.  At the banquet the previous night, one of the announcements was of a new issue.  The issue went on sale at the Pavilion Saturday morning.  I, of course, bought one.  It contains the the original version of “Black Canaan” as Howard wrote it, an untitled poem that wasn’t included in the collected poetry, an untitled Breckenridge Elkins fragment, and a drawing by Howard.  If I heard correctly, there are only 200 copies.  I don’t have information about purchasing, so if someone reading does have that information, I would appreciate it if you could put it in a comment.

 The Barbarian Festival was moved from downtown to Treadway Park just down the road from the house.  I intended to swing by but never made it.  I got to talking to several folks, including Paul Herman of the Foundation, Willie Siros and Scott Cupp of Adventures in Crime and Space Books, and author James ReasonerDave Hardy joined in the conversation shortly before we adjourned to The Staghorn Cafe for lunch and more conversation.  If you’ve been to Cross Plains and not stopped in for their chicken fired steak, you’ve missed out.  The Staghorn was named an honorable mention in Texas Monthly‘s list of the 40 Best Small Town Cafes in Texas.  If you think about how many small towns there are in Texas, you’ll realize that’s no small accomplishment.

I don’t have many pictures for two reasons.  One is that people sitting around talking generally don’t make for exciting photos.  The other is that my camera had gotten turned on and by the time I discovered it, the battery was dead.  I do have a couple of pictures from my phone of the signing and the ascent of Caddo Peak. 

After lunch Scott and I decided to take in the new art museum.  One of the ladies in town has taken the old Methodist church building and converted it into a museum.  It exceeded my expectations, containing some very nice pieces.  I bought my wife a bracelet, just to say “Thank You” for allowing me to abandon her at my parents’ house while I went off and had fun.

While there we ran into Mark Finn (interviewed here and here).  Mark and I agreed that you should always have some money tucked away for emergencies and that a new issue of The Howard Collector you weren’t expecting constituted an emergency. 

We went back to the Pavilion and sat around talking for a bit.  I got the contributors who were there to sign my copy of Dreams in the Fire, the new anthology of original fiction by current and former REHupans.  Look for a review here in the next week to ten days.  

I was having such an enjoyable time visiting with friends that I never made it to the library and the panels held there.  Those included Paul Sammon on Conan Movie History, Howard Fandom with Damon and Dennis, and REH Historical Poetry with Barbara Barrett, Alan Birkelbach, and Frank Coffman.

Book signing at the Pavilion

The last panel of the day was held at the Pavilion.  Rusty Burke, Fred Malmberg, and Paul Herman discussed what’s happening with REH.  Some of the upcoming projects include a new Kull movie, a new edition of the collected poetry that will include all of the poems discovered since the last volume (now out of print) was published, Mark Finn’s biography, Howard’s biographical writings which will include Post Oaks and Sand Roughs, a collection of Howard’s spicy stories in their original form (racier than the published versions), and a collection of all of Howard’s science fiction.  Lots of good stuff to look forward to.

There was a brief signing of Dreams in the Fire, then everyone headed out to the barbeque.  The picture above is of the signing.  The people at the table in front are, from left to right, Amy Kerr, Mark Finn, Angeline Hawkes, Christopher Fulbright, Gary Romeo (in the purple shirt).  The gentleman on the right side of the picture in the black T-shirt and tan shorts facing to the left is Rob Roehm.  If you look carefully, you can see the bottom of the Howard house on the right side.  The rest of the house is lost in the glare.

Before we ate, there was the traditional assault on Caddo Peak.  This is the west peak.  The east peak is owned by someone else who doesn’t want a bunch of folks traipsing around.  Makes sense seeing as how he has cattle grazing there.  The heat wasn’t too bad.  I think it was around the upper 90s but the breeze and low humidity allowed the evaporative cooling to offset the discomfort. 

Al Harron and Miguel Martins atop Caddo Peak

When we got to the top, one gentleman passed around a small bottle of scotch.  We each took a sip and toasted our achievement (not keeling over from heatstroke).  I’ve forgotten the gentleman’s name, but if he happens to read this, many thanks, sir.  I found a nice multi-fossil specimen; Al Harron kindly identified some components. 

View from Caddo Peak looking east towards Cross Plains

After that we headed down to an excellent dinner of brisket and sausage with all the fixings.  Paul Sammon sat at the table I was at, and he, Willie Siros, and Scott Cupp talked about writers they’d known who are no longer with us.  People like Phillip K. Dick, R. A. Lafferty, Karl Edward Wagner, and Theodore Sturgeon.  I was insanely jealous that they had known these men.  It was a wonderful meal and conversation, and I hope Paul will take the time to write some of his memories down.  One thing that frustrates me is how much oral history has been lost in the science fiction and fantasy fields because no one has bothered to write things down.

Sunset

When the meal was over, we went and watched the Sun set.  Then those who were so inclined headed back to the Pavilion.  I went for a few minutes but didn’t stay long since I had an hour’s drive in the dark ahead of me and didn’t want to sleep at the wheel.  I got Barbara Barrett to sign Dreams in the Fire since she hadn’t been at the signing earlier and chatted for a few minutes with Damon Sasser.  Last year, Dave Hardy provided some homemade mead.  It was good, but this year’s batch was better.  I had a taste and really wished I didn’t have to drive.  I would have loved to have some more.  Thanks for bringing it, Dave.  I need to get the recipe from you.

Then I hit the road, and Howard Days 2011 became a memory, at least for me.  But a very good memory…

Report on Howard Days 2011, Day One

The side of the Cross Plains library

Robert E. Howard Days 2011 was a great success, at least in my opinion.  The weather was hot, but not humid, and the breeze helped keep things cool.  Some people might say we had wind, but since the sky didn’t turn brown from dust like it has for the last few months where I live, I’ll say we only had a breeze in Cross Plains.

Festivities started on Thursday night, but I wasn’t able to arrive until Friday morning.  I’ll report on what I participated in.  Al Harron, at The Blog That Time Forgot, has posted daily summaries, starting with this one for Thursday.  Al and I participated in some of the same activities but also a number of different ones, so check out his posts as well.  Others will be posting their reports, and I’ll try to provide links throughout the week as I become aware of them.

I’ll put in more photos than I usually do, at least for the first day.  My camera battery died on the second day, so all I have are a few photos I took with my phone.  I’ll put the best of those in.

I got to the Pavilion shortly before 9:00 a.m.  Several familiar faces were already there.  I grabbed a donut and coffee and began saying hello after swinging by the bin with the issues of The Cimmerian for sale.   I picked up a few and began mingling.  One of the people I had the pleasure of meeting was Miguel Martins.  Rusty Burke was leading a trailer tour again this year.  Until last year, this was known as The Walking Tour, but a trailer with chairs on it has taken its place.  And a good thing, too.  Even though it was still relatively cool at this time in the morning (low 80s Fahrenheit), it would have been hotter than that before the tour was over.

House where Novalyne Price lived

Just before the tour started Al Harron, arrived.  I met Al last year and made it a point of saying hello before we left.  The tour was packed.  All the chairs on the trailer were taken and four people were piled into the bed of the pickup towing us.  We went by the cemetery (the Howards are all buried in Brownwood) and behind downtown, crossed the highway, and went by the house where Novalyne Price lived while she worked as a teacher at Cross Plains High School from 1934-1936.  That’s her room on the right with the air conditioner sticking out of the window.  If you haven’t read her memoir about her relationship with Bob,  One Who Walked Alone: Robert E. Howard the Final Years, you should.  It formed the basis of the movie The Whole Wide World, starring Vincent D’Onofrio and an at the time nearly unknown actress named Renee Zellweger. 

Rusty Burke leading the Trailer Tour

We also saw the building where the dry-cleaning business Bob worked at was once located, the location of the drug store where he once worked, and the building where he had his stenography business. Trying to take phhotos from a moving trailer turned out to be harder than I thought, so I don’t have many.

After we returned to the Pavilion, I wandered through the Howard house.  There were a number of new docents this year.  The gift shop had the usual number of books and zines, as well as copies of The Whole Wide World and various T-shirts and caps.

Hester’s room, left side
Hester’s room, right side

 I’ve included three photos from the house.  The first is of the left side of Hester’s room, taken from the doorway.  This is the front bedroom that looks out on the porch.  When you enter the house through the front door, you face a long hall with the living room on the right and Hester and Isaac’s room on the left.

The second photo is the right hand side of the room.  Off to the right, out of the field of view, is a dresser.  There’s a small closet to the left of the bedroom door.  As you can see, the room would be considered small by today’s standards.  My memory says that the bed was in front of the window on previous visits rather than to the side, but I’m not sure.  I’ll have to see if I can locate some photos from a previous visit.

The window on the right looks out on what was originally a porch.  It became Bob’s room.  You can see a trunk through the window if you look carefully.

The third photo is looking into Bob’s room.  The brightly lit window looks out onto the side yard.  The windows on the right have a picture of what the backyard would have looked like in the 30s.  A later owner of the house added a room which is now the gift shop.  The typewriter and writing table on the right are the originals.  The original table was sold or given to someone who cut the legs off to make it into a coffee table.  There is a typewriter whose owner claims is Howards, but last year Paul Sammons found a typewriter which may be the original one.  That question has yet to be answered conclusively.  The books on the dresser on the left are copies of ones Bob was known to have owned, although they are not original.  Until you stand in front of it, it’s hard to imagine how small Bob’s bedroom is by contemporary standards.  If I had to live in such a cramped space I think I would imagine being a wanderer.  It’s no wonder he spent so much time in his car driving around the countryside.

Bob’s room

Then it was time for the morning’s panel, which was held at the library.  Rusty Burke and Bill Cavalier related how the first Howard Days came about.  It was a group of fans who wanted to see where Robert E. Howard had written his tales of Kull, Solomon Kane, and Conan.

After the panel, I gave a ride back to the Pavilion to some friends, stopping at the Post Office on the way.  Each year the Cross Plains Post Office commemorates Howard Days with a unique postal cancellation.  I had missed the cancellation on previous visits, but this year I managed to get two post cards and an envelope with the cancellation.  They’re going to go into frames.

Lunch was chili dogs with all the fixings at the Pavilion.  Then it was back to the library for panels on They Kept the Legacy Alive with Damon Sasser, Dennis McHaney, Lee Breakiron, and Bill Cavalier and Howard’s Historicals with Barbara Barret and Amy Kerr.  I was late and missed most of the first panel, but caught all of the ladies’ panel.  Each focused on one of Bob’s strong women characters.  These ladies know their stuff.

Cross Plains has a top notch library.  It was one of the three finalists last year for Best Small Town Library in the US.  I took a minute to look at some of the pulps  and books the library put on display.  They have quite an extensive collection of Howard’s publications.  These usually stay locked up in the bank vault, but the library puts them on display for Howard Days.  Closely watched, of course.  Here are some shots of what they have.  I turn green with envy every time I see them.

Cross Plains Library collection

More of the collection
Original publication of some of Bob’s work

They don’t make covers like this anymore.  Sigh.

The last item of the afternoon was the trailer for the new Conan movie in the high school auditorium.  Specifically, the “Red Band” trailer, or the R-rated trailer in other words.  Fred Malmberg of Paradox Entertainment led the discussion.  Star Jason Mamoa had wanted to be there but was unable to due to a wedding he needed to attend.  He did send a video clip clip greeting, which was pretty cool.  I’ve got pictures of some of hte pro0ps they had on hand.  I’ll post those later this week or early next week.  We were told we could take pictures but were asked not to post them until late this week.  They hadn’t been publicly shown before.

Miguel asked me after it was over what I thought.  I said that it will be visually stunning and would probably be a good movie about a character named Conan.  Whether that character had any resemblance to a character of the same name created by Robert E. Howard remained to be seen.  
I went back to the pavilion and visited with friends for a little while, then proceeded on to the banquet.  Like last year, the food was good, fajitas with rice and beans.  Fred Malmberg sat across and and one seat down from me, so I got to talk with him some.  He seems to be very knowledgeable about Howard’s works and wants to have them adapted faithfully to the screen.  I gained some insight into how the whole process of bringing a property to film works from talking to him.  Paul Herman presented the Robert E. Howard Foundation scholarship.  This is a $1000 scholarship presented each year to the winner of an essay contest.  This year’s winner read her essay, which was over one of Howard’s poems. 

Dennis McHaney

Damon Sasser

Guests Dennis McHaney and Damon Sasser gave gave brief speeches on how they came to be involved in Howard fandom.  The silent auction was didn’t seem to have as much stuff as last year, or maybe I had better self control.  I didn’t get everything I bid on, but I did okay.  The auction is a fundraiser for Project Pride, the community development organization that hosts Howard Days.  I heard the next day they raised over $1500.  If that’s not correct, someone please let me know. 

Al Harron accepting his award

The Robert E. Howard Foundation Awards were announced.  Rob Roehm won more than anyone, but there were a number of other winners as well.  I don’t have a complete list, but I will post a link when the Foundation posts them.  Two of the most surprised winners were David Hardy and Al Harron. That’s Al accepting his award in the photo. 

Bill Cavalier

Bill Cavalier received the Black Circle Award, which is for lifetime achievement.  It’s not easy to win.  You have to be nominated one year and then receive a certain percentage of the vote the next.  That’s him holding it up.

Adventures Fantastic would like to congratulate all of the winners.

After the awards, those of us who didn’t have a long drive went to the Pavilion for the poetry throwdown.  I was tired and decided not to push my luck and headed on home.

I’ll write about the second day in a followup post.